If you need to curl up in front of a warm fire, here are some good reads to keep you company.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Orbit, Feb 25 2010, $13.99
Barbaric warrior Baroness Yeine Darr lives in the Northern Kingdom of Darr. When her mother dies mysteriously, she has no time to grieve or investigate. Instead she is “invited” to come to the center of the universe by the Emperor of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by her grandfather the Dekarta Arameri ruler of all. In the capital city of Sky, a bewildered Yeine learns her grandfather the ruler names her his third heir along with her cousins once removed twins Lady Scimina and Lord Relad.
Confused and bewildered over her selection to the competition to replace the aging Dekarta, Yeine soon realizes her role at court is to be an expendable pawn used by her cousins as each has ambitions to be the next ruler. However, she also learns more about her family’s history and the gods serving them; losers in the Gods War eons ago who humiliatingly must bow to the mortals as their retribution for the crime of defeat. She proves to have backbone though all at court thought she would and intelligence that none thought she had while trying to save the kingdoms and free the god-slaves.
The first tale of the Inheritance Trilogy is a fascinating adaptation fantasy told through the filter of the heroine who uses her experiences as a chieftain and lessons from her late mother to understand the glamorous cesspool she has been tossed into. Yeine is a terrific lead protagonist who keeps the deep story line focused whether she deals with her grandfather, her amoral rivals, the slave-gods especially Nahadoth. Although the engaging story line is simplified too much between the forces of good and bad, readers will enjoy the opening account of a fully developed convoluted world in which debts of the soul are paid by losing your rights as Nahadoth the Nightlord One of the Three and now Yeine know the difference between the slave and the princess. Harriet Klausner
Prince of Storms
PYR, Jan 26 2010, $26.00
Titus Quinn of Earth from the Rose universe claims to be the Regent of the parallel universe Entire. He pledges to turn over control to his daughter Sen Ni, but procrastinates as he distrusts his estranged offspring especially since she has linked her destiny with Geng De the psychic. Quinn fears if he gives up the throne, the technologically advanced Entire will destroy his homeworld as part of the extinction of the Rose as his daughter has already proclaimed doing in order to save the failing Entire.
He is not a fool as he knows his control is shaky as the enemy resides near him enough to harass him, and the Tarig overlords remain hostile and evil with plans to overthrow his Ascendancy and devastate the Rose (see City Without End).just like his daughter will do to save their realm. However, it is the plotting of the navitar especially one who can alter the future that frightens him. His only hope is a pact with the opponents of the Long War, the Jinda ceb Horat who have Quinn's wife Anzi as a willing remorseful pawn. Still Quinn knows the real fight is with the navitar who forces the beleaguered earth champion to choose the fate of billions in two universes as a master plan of devious design unfolds.
This is an exhilarating finish to a great saga as The Entire and the Rose not just wraps up major threads, but keeps the audience thinking about life and death choices on a macro and micro level. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with memorable characters struggling to do what each believes is right; knowing whatever is selected dooms many. Fans will appreciate this strong entry to powerful quartet as Kay Kenyon makes it clear how difficult on a personal level it is to decide who will live and who will die when one faces a face. Harriet Klausner
The Hellhound King
Silhouette Nocturne, Feb 2010, $5.25
Half-elf, half-witch Marina Adal does not want to return to her home realm Alfheim because she knows her uncle will take away her freedom and besides in Gunngar everyone hates her including Amma the witch she freed from a needle trap who now resides trapped inside her. She assumes even her former lover loathes her though she believes he betrayed her. Thus the Fairy princess works as a chambermaid while concealing her background.
However her former lover Raf Dolg the hellhound arrives to take her back to her uncle. The Svartalfar dark elves also want to capture the princess. In Alfheim, Raf tries to keep her safe, uncover who wants her dead and why, and who murdered his family.
This is an exhilarating romantic fantasy that grips the audience from the opening scene when Raf arrives to collect his bounty on the treacherous elf who he believes deceived him. The cast is solid and intrigue re the throne is superb especially with a terrific ironic twist. Lori Devoti provides a strong “fairy” tale in which love may not be enough to even keep the hellhound and the elf alive. Harriet Klausner